Lecture DVD project targets education gaps

by Takuro Iwahashi

Kyodo

Still just a 24-year-old senior at Tokyo’s Waseda University, Atsuyoshi Saisho helped 18 students in a poor Bangladeshi village lacking teachers pass their university entrance exams.

Saisho created and heads what he calls the e-Education project, which helps students in developing countries who cannot afford to study for university exams or are deprived of the opportunity for other reasons by distributing DVDs to them containing lectures by top-ranked instructors.

“A DVD is one way to ‘increase’ the number of teachers without spending that much,” Saisho said, noting the great thing about learning from a DVD is that a student can watch lectures over and over.

Saisho was not always good at school and largely benefited from e-learning. When he was enrolled at Tokyo Metropolitan Ryogoku High School, he once scored 2 out of 100 on a test.

But he drastically improved once he started studying at a major preparatory school. Taking the school’s video-based lectures helped him pass the exam for Waseda University.

During his junior year at the university in 2009, Saisho resolved to use his own experience to revolutionize education in developing countries.

He first targeted Bangladesh when he learned the country has a shortage of schools, classrooms and teachers, and suffers a huge disparity in education levels.

The following year, Saisho put his own studies on hold and asked the teachers at Bangladesh’s best preparatory school, in Dhaka, to let him record their lectures. He then took the DVDs by boat to an impoverished farming village several hours downriver from Dhaka for local high school students to use.

Eighteen of the 30 students who received the lectures passed their university entrance exams.

His effort has struck a chord with many people in Japan and abroad. About 30 volunteers from around the world now take part in the project, while the University of Tokyo and major companies have invested in it.